The Loss of Malaysian Airlines Legal Assistance Update
Have you, or someone you know, been affected by the Malaysian Airlines MH 17 disaster when the plane was shot down over the eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014?
My name is Jerry Skinner and I have worked litigating for family members involved in some of the world’s deadliest air crashes in the past 35 years, and nothing I have seen compares to this act of senseless destruction of the lives of those aboard MH 17.
Family members, who are now still beside themselves with grief, will be looking for answers in what is a complex arrangement of international politics, a recklessly managed airline and a desperate group of Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine.
There is a lot of evidence still to be gathered, but at this stage, we must assume that MH 17 was attacked by a weapon that was launched with calculated intent, the Buk 2-1, which has four components mounted on three mobile platforms to launch missiles with warheads.
Detonating this weapon involved the use of sophisticated target acquisition radar that told those who fired the missile a description of the target that it was locked onto. This was no accident, no simple mistake. We now live in a world where a commercial airliner of civilians can be shot down with calculated intent. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
More than ten years ago, I was part of a team that secured $2.7 billion from Libya, representing around $10 million for each family who lost loved ones in the Pan Am flight 103 Lockerbie bombing. This compensation was only extracted from Libya after years of sanctions from the United Nations, the United States and by placing Libya on the United States State Department list of states that sponsor terrorism.
Bringing those responsible for the destruction of flight MH 17 to justice will require cooperation between the courts so the judges all begin to look for a bigger, more cooperative remedy. From there, politicians will have to be involved (at least, those who know that there are extra- judicial funds, mediation bodies and arbitration available in large international disputes) and then, with all the courts involved, we will need to seek a joint conference to find one universal remedy that all courts should adopt.
The approach will be similar to that applied in the case of the Lockerbie bombing, where the World Court, the International Court of Civil Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration were all involved. In the United States the claims for 9/11 were handled in this way.
Ultimately, political pressure will need to be placed upon nation states. Russia, Ukraine and Malaysia will all be involved, and already, Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has participated in talks with his counterpart, the Dutch Prime Minister in the Netherlands.
The process will be a slow one and the interests of families involved must be properly represented to ensure that they are correctly compensated and their rights not overruled by the interests and political ambitions of those who would seek to avoid responsibility for this crime.
Family members are right to feel outraged. We must dignify the lives and memories of their loved ones and bring a political attack to bear on all contributing governments to find a just solution.
LHD has partnered with Jerome Skinner on the MH17 case, one of the world’s renowned Aviation Litigation experts.
Jerry Skinner is a skilled aviation litigator handling domestic and international cases. He handles all types of aviation accident cases in which catastrophic loss of life or personal injury has occurred as a result of negligence. Jerry has over 25 years of multi-district commercial airline litigation, complex tort, product liability and class-action experience.
Jerry has successfully advocated for families victimized by almost every major U.S. airline disaster since 1989, including the negotiations that resulted in the State of Libya paying an historic $2.7 billion dollar settlement to the survivors of those killed by the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Jerry believes that Aviation law is one of the most complex areas of law and that success in this area requires not only legal and technical knowledge but also the ability to work with deeply wounded clients who need compassion as much as they need expertise.
Jerry has been a member of the court-appointed litigation steering committee PSC in the following cases: Pan Am Flight 103 – Libyan Litigation, NW Flight 255, USAF CT-43, TWA Flight 800, Swissair Flight 111, Egypt Air flight 990. In the litigation arising out of the Egypt Air 990 accident, Mr. Skinner also served as MDL Liaison Counsel, acting on behalf of all plaintiffs.Those cases were mediated in Cairo.
Jerry has also represented plaintiffs in general aviation accident cases involving Piper, de Haviland, Lear, Beechcraft and Cessna small aircraft as well as in Agusta and Sikorsky helicopters.
Outside of his legal practice, Jerry is intimately involved with the Romanian Handicapped Ministry, an organization that he founded in 1998 and which he currently serves as president. RHM is a non-profit, Christian ministry that focuses on young people with serious disabilities in the Black Sea port city of Constanta. Jerry has been to Romania many times to support the 6 employees of RHM-Ro., that operates a daily program. The NGO also holds an annual summer camp and provides medical and therapeutic care